Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.
Oliver Lee was born in Lebanon, Conn. on Dec. 23, 1791. He was married in Connecticut, Oct. 30, 1813, to Eliza Downer. That same year, Lee came to Genesee County, N.Y. and settled in Orangeville – now Wyoming County – and started a farm. He was an early constable and a deputy sheriff for Genesee County.
In 1823, Lee went into the mercantile business in Sheldon, N.Y. and continued it for one year. In 1825, he came to Westfield and began a mercantile business and by the fall of 1827, he started trading in Silver Creek, having purchased the mill and farm previously owned by John E. Howard.
By 1828 Lee and his family had moved to Silver Creek and in the same year, took into partnership Clark C. Swift, and, under the firm name of Lee & Swift, continued business until 1832. During that time he built up a large trade with the Indians and settlers reaching to the south line of the county. Lee also is credited with building the Silver Creek House in 1831 and 1832.
From 1833 to 1835, Lee served as Supervisor of the Town of Hanover. In 1840 his son, Charles H. Lee, became a business partner and soon retired from the mercantile business. In 1839, Lee established the Bank of Silver Creek and was its first president. He then established Oliver Lee & Co.’s Bank of Buffalo in 1844.
Lee and his wife had 11 children, nine of which reached adulthood. He died suddenly in Buffalo, July 28, 1846.
Further Reading: Oliver Lee and Eliza Downer Genealogy Page
– J. Sample